Mar
25
2011

In response to the horrific recent events in Japan, some members of the speculative fiction community created Genre for Japan.  Starting on March 28, they will be auctioning items related to science fiction, fantasy, and horror and donating the proceeds to the Japan Tsunami Appeal run by the British Red Cross.  It’s a win/win situation since it’s a wonderful cause and there are some pretty great items available, such as a year’s supply of Tor Books and a special, limited edition proof copy of China Mieville’s The City and the City.

It was pretty exciting to see this video interview, in which Neil Gaiman talks about the Good Omens TV series that’s in progress.

Jacqueline Carey announced in her March update that she’s contracted for three books in a new not-quite-urban fantasy series with the possible title Pemkowet Tales. It will be interesting to see what she does with it.  (In addition to Naamah’s Blessing in June, she also has Saints Astray, the Santa Olivia sequel, coming out in November this year.  Hooray!)

Today Gail Carriger announced she has a four book YA series beginning in 2012.  The Finishing School series is set 25 years before her Parasol Protectorate series.

This week I received a second ARC of Department Nineteen by Will Hill from Penguin so I’m giving it away!

Department NineteenJamie Carpenter’s life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein’s monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond – from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it’s packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

Giveaway Rules: This giveaway is only open to those with a US mailing address.  The contest will end on March 31, and a winner will be randomly selected on April 1.  To enter, fill out the form below.  Good luck!

Note: Since the contest is now over, the form has been removed.

It was another great book with lots of books I really, really want to read – 4 review copies (all of which I’d love to read soon although I’m not sure how realistic that is), 2 books bought, and 1 late Christmas gift (due to the book not actually being out on time for Christmas).  I am not buying any books this next week, I promise!

DeathlessDeathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless will be released in hardcover and as an e-book on March 29, and I am incredibly excited about reading this one.  First of all, I loved Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden and also really enjoyed The Habitation of the Blessed.  Secondly, I love books based on myths or folklore so reading about Koschei the Deathless sounds very interesting (especially now that I know more about his story – coincidentally, I just read about it in the book I’m currently reading, which has a lot about different legends).

Also it is a great year to be a fan of Catherynne Valente’s since this is the first of three of her books being released this year. In May, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making will be released in actual book form.  (This book was previously online and won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Literature.)  The second volume in A Dirge for Prester John, The Folded World, will be out in November.  Although I’m really excited about all three of these, Deathless has to be the one I’ve been most looking forward to reading.  I’ll be reading this one very soon.

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what giants or wicked witches are to European fairy tales: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on for generations through and storybooks and verbal lore. But Koschei has never looked quite as he does through the eyes of Catherynne M. Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to our recent past, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever peasant girl, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power.

Shades of Milk and HoneyShades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ever since I heard about this book, described as what fantasy might be if written by Jane Austen, I’ve really wanted to read it. Since it was released in hardcover, though, I never got around to shilling out the money for it and was planning to wait until it was released in paperback.  However, I was looking around for cheaper copies of books for the Nebula Readathon and came across this book for $4.99.  Even with shipping that was about the same price as a mass market paperback would be, so I snatched it up.  I’ll be reading it in May since it’s one of the selections for May 21.

Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Ember and AshEmber and Ash by Pamela Freeman

Ember and Ash, set in the same world as Freeman’s Castings trilogy, will be released in mass market paperback/ebook on April 26.  This is another book I’ve been interested in reading since I’ve heard good things about the Castings trilogy.  While the Castings omnibus is on my to-read pile and is also something I really want to read, I’ll probably start with this one since the entire omnibus is huge and will probably take me forever to read from start to finish (and I have a bizarre thing about not liking to read just one book from an omnibus and then putting it aside to read later even though it’s really the same as having books one and two in a series – it just feels like I’m leaving a book unfinished since they’re all in one book and I can’t mark it “read” in Goodreads).

The old ones will have their revenge.

Two peoples have been fighting over the same land for a thousand years. Invaders crushed the original inhabitants, and ancient powers have reluctantly given way to newer magics. But Ember was to change all this with a wedding to bind these warring people together – until her future goes up in flames.

Ember’s husband-to-be is murdered by a vengeful elemental god, who sees peace as a breach of faith. Set on retribution, she enlists the help of Ash, son of a seer. Together they will pit themselves against elementals of fire and ice in a last attempt to end the conflicts that have scarred their past. They must look to the present, as old furies are waking to violence and are eager to reclaim their people.

The Wise Man's FearThe Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

As a #1 New York Times bestseller and one of the most talked about fantasy books at the moment, the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles most likely needs no introduction.  My husband actually pre-ordered me a copy of this book for Christmas from The Signed Page (an awesome place for getting signed books from an assortment of science fiction/fantasy authors – they’ve also had books by Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Lois McMaster Bujold, Steven Erikson, and Jacqueline Carey before).  Now that the book is out, my signed copy showed up!  I may have to take a vacation just to read it, though – it’s nearly 1,000 pages in hardcover and the print is not large, either.

For nearly four years, science fiction enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting this second volume to Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. The first volume, The Name of the Wind, won the prestigious Quill Award and was recently voted as the third-best SFF novel of the decade on Tor.com. In this linchpin book of the trilogy, Kvothe continues his perilous search for answers about the Chandrian even as he grapples with more pressing dangers.

DragonsbaneDragonsbane by Barbara Hambly

Originally published in the 1980s, Dragonsbane has been out of print for a while.  However, it is going to be coming out sometime in April as an ebook.  I’ve been wanting to read this book, especially since Elizabeth Bear mentioned it in my recent interview with her, but since it was out of print I’ve never gotten a copy.  It just may be the book that finally inspires me to actually try my husband’s Kindle out.  I’m a paper book kind of person, but I do love the sound of this one enough that it may just get me to try it very, very soon.

There are three other books in the Winterlands series following this novel – Dragonshadow, Knight of the Demon Queen, and Dragonstar.

When the Black Dragon seized the Deep of Ylferdun, young Gareth braved the far Winterlands to find John Aversin, Dragonsbane — the only living man ever to slay a dragon. In return for the promise of the King to send help to the Winterlands, Aversin agreed to attempt the nearly impossible feat again.

With them, to guard them on the haunted trip south, went Jenny Waynest, a half-taught sorceress and mother of Aversin’s sons.

But at the decadent Court, nothing was as expected. Rebellion threatened the land. Zyerne, a sorceress of seemingly unlimited power, held the King under an evil spell, and he refused to see them. Meantime, the dragon fed well on the knights who had challenged him.

In the end, Aversin, Jenny, and Gareth had to steal away at night to challenge Morkeleb, largest and wisest of dragons.

But that was only the beginning of the perils they must face.

Ghosts & EchoesGhosts & Echoes by Lyn Benedict

This is the second book in the Shadows Inquiries series (following Sins & Shadows), which I started reading when I discovered Lyn Benedict and Lane Robins were the same person.  Although I really enjoyed the first book for its mythological basis and the risks the author was willing to take, I never picked up the second book since I also started getting a little urban fantasied out and have only been keeping up with my absolute top favorite series in the genre (basically, Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and October Daye by Seanan McGuire).  So I never realized a quote from my review of the first book was on the back cover, and when I found out, I went out and bought it the next day.  Yes, that’s a little pathetic, but it was on my wish list anyway since this is one of the urban fantasy series I do want to get caught up on at some point when I’m ready to read more of it (the others being Ann Aguirre’s Corine Solomon series and Kim Harrison’s Hollows).

The third book in the series, Gods & Monsters, will be released on April 26.

The new urban fantasy series that has readers jumping at shadows.

Chicago cop Adam Wright has picked up a spiritual hitchhiker, the ghost of a dead man who desperately wants to live again. So he turns to supernatural P.I. Sylvie Lightner to rid him of the spirit-a spirit she finds strangely familiar.

The Dragon's PathThe Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

A finished copy of the first book in a brand new series, The Dagger and the Coin, showed up this week.  It will be released on April 7 in trade paperback and as an e-book.   The ebook includes a bonus ARC of Leviathan Wakes, the first book in a new space opera series Abraham co-authored with Ty Franck as James S. A. Corey, coming out in June. (The Dragon’s Path is another one I’m hoping to read relatively soon.)

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war.

The Sworn is the first book in a new fantasy series by Gail Z. Martin, The Fallen Kings Cycle.  It starts about 6 months after the end of Martin’s previous series, The Chronicles of the Necromancer (composed of The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, and Dark Lady’s Chosen, respectively).  In spite of the fact that it is a continuation of the story began in these other books, it is supposed to work as a starting point even for new readers to the series and introduces some new characters while keeping many familiar ones.  A sequel, The Dread, is scheduled for release in early 2012.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not good to be the king, at least not if facing the same obstacles Tris Drayke must overcome.  He has become a powerful summoner and defeated Jared the Usurper to take his place as the rightful king of Margoaln.  However, the usurper’s reign disrupted the former tranquility the nation enjoyed as well as creating financial hardship.  Tris’s marriage to Princess Kiara of Isencroft contributed to further turmoil in both kingdoms, who do not get along and are not pleased about sharing a joint crown.  This will not be resolved until each of the two kingdoms has its own heir, but Tris and Kiara’s first unborn child was nearly assassinated, leaving them to wonder if the first of these heirs will be healthy.

Furthermore, Tris begins hearing rumors of a dark mage beyond the sea while a plague runs rampant through the kingdoms.  He discovers the secret to winning the imminent war may lie with the Dread, the mysterious protectors of the barrows guarded by the Sworn, and determines to learn all he can about them – and try to enlist their aid in the upcoming struggle.

Gail Z. Martin appears to have a rather large fanbase, so when the first book in her new series found its way into my mailbox, I didn’t have to think twice about reading it.  Unfortunately, while The Sworn has worked for many others, I found it did not suit my personal taste.  Part of this may have been due to not having read the first series.  While this novel is supposed to be the start of a brand new series, it’s very obvious that it’s not really the beginning.  The prologue was a five page long summary of what happened before, and it throws out so many character names at once that it’s extremely difficult to keep track of them all.  In the first two paragraphs, I just counted 13 names of brand new characters!  With this, there is the immediate feeling that one is picking up in the middle of a story instead of starting a new one, and perhaps with more of a stake in the characters and their situations, I would have enjoyed it more.  Also, trying to make this story accessible to new readers was a hindrance since the forward momentum of the story was quite often interrupted to fill readers in on what happened before or who a certain character was.

In addition to stopping rather often to keep readers informed on the past, it was extremely detailed and much longer than it needed to be.  A lot more description than necessary was spent on describing character’s appearances and clothing.  Considering the length of the novel, not a lot seemed to happen at all.  There’s a large number of character viewpoints, and the plot seemed to progress very slowly as each character seemed to learn very similar details about the situation without adding anything new.  There were three or four chapters toward the end in which it largely felt like each viewpoint was focusing on the same new-to-them revelations – but it wasn’t anything new to me since I felt like I had just read the same exact news in the chapter before.  It seems as though this book largely exists to set up the next volume, especially considering the main action seems about to begin on the very last page.  For a book that is nearly 600 pages long, that’s a lot of time spent setting up what comes next.

The amount of setup may not have been much of a problem if the journey and the characters were more appealing; however, I found both to be quite dull considering my own personal inclinations.  While it is an interesting change of pace to see so many creatures associated with urban fantasy in a secondary world fantasy (vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and zombies), The Sworn is largely a story about good vs. evil. This is a trope I’ve tired of reading about unless the characters can win me over, and most of these characters are rather generic, as well as too dutiful and near-perfect to be compelling.  For example, Tris is the greatest known mage at the time, Jonmarc is an unbeatable warrior, and Carina is the best healer.  Aidane was one of the more unusual characters with the ability to converse with and submit her body to ghosts.  As she used this gift to survive as a prostitute for people who wished to be reunited with people from their pasts, she was one of the more different characters in the story, but she also did not strike me as an engaging protagonist.  No one had a personality that really made them stand apart from the other characters; they were largely defined by their special characteristics.  Also, everyone was entirely devoted to doing the right thing, and while this makes them admirable it also makes them boring and not very realistic.  On a couple of occasions, someone was prepared to put themselves in a potentially deadly situation for the good of the kingdom, and the reactions of those who loved them was some sadness but it was overshadowed by understanding and acceptance – no real internal conflict, just resignation to what must be done.

Not only does The Sworn feel like it is picking up right in the middle of a story, but it also feels like one long setup for the next book that ends right when the action is about to pick up.  It’s also not geared toward my particular taste as a more traditional fantasy story with a very clear line drawn between good and evil, which is where the main conflict appears to lie.  The main protagonists tend to be very powerful, special, and devoted to the common good with no glaring human flaws to round them out – and that just contributed further to my lack of interest in this novel.

My Rating: 3/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

The Native Star, M. K. Hobson’s debut novel, has been nominated for the Nebula Award this year.  This historical fantasy, set in an alternate America in the year 1876, had piqued my curiosity so when The Book Smugglers announced a Nebula Readathon I knew it was time to read it.  I am so glad I did – I was hoping to like it, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.  A sequel, The Hidden Goddess, is scheduled for release on April 26, and it’s still not soon enough because as soon as I finished The Native Star that was the only book I really wanted to read next.

Making a living is becoming tougher for Emily Edwards, a young witch living in Lost Pine, California, with her adoptive father.  She’s had to take over her father’s work as a magic user, and there have been so many medical bills for her father that they’re barely managing to feed themselves. To make matters worse, many of the townspeople have begun ordering their magic from a corporation, Baugh’s Patent Magicks, leaving less opportunity for Emily to earn money for the two of them.  Out of desperation, Emily casts a love spell on Dag Hansen, the most successful man in town, so he will marry her and provide for her and her father.

However, Emily’s plans go awry.  The night of the dance when Emily suspects Dag will propose to her, an old man is asked to use magic to reveal some truths they don’t know about.  His first revelation is that Emily has performed some bad magic, but after Dag tells him to not to speak badly of Emily, he reveals that the zombie miners at Old China have gone out of control.  Everyone believes this to be ludicrous, but Emily is concerned since at least part of his prophecy was indeed accurate.  She sneaks away from the dance to go check it out for herself, only to be followed by Dreadnought Stanton, a traveling warlock whom Emily despises as an arrogant, pompous know-it-all.  Of course, Mr. Stanton cannot let Emily face a horde of zombies by herself, particularly since he is more knowledgeable about such matters than she is.

The two arrive at the mine to find out what the old man said is indeed true.  The zombies found a blue stone and for some reason it caused them to become enraged.  Emily and Mr. Stanton manage to escape, but once they’re out of danger, Emily realizes this blue stone has become embedded in her hand – and neither she nor the extraordinarily scholarly Mr. Stanton know why or how to remove it.  Mr. Stanton promises to do some research, and the next morning he suggests Emily go to the university for magical studies in San Francisco to get help.  The decision becomes easier for Emily when he offers enough money in exchange for her father to manage without her, particularly since the stone prevents Emily from performing magic herself.  Also, she really wants to be able to reverse the love spell she cast on Dag.  After Dag heard Emily was seen with Stanton after she disappeared from the dance, he went into a frenzy destroying his buildings because they reminded him of Emily and the life he wanted with her.  So Emily agrees to spend one or two weeks going to San Francisco with Mr. Stanton, but neither of them are prepared for just how long the journey will be – or just how dangerous, as many will stop at nothing to try to retrieve this mysterious stone from Emily’s hand.

The Native Star is an immensely fun book containing adventure, an intriguing alternate history/western setting with lots of magic, and a little bit of romance.  From the description, I really didn’t expect to be enamored of it, and I probably never would have picked it up if I hadn’t heard it was good from other reviewers.  However, it hooked me almost immediately, particularly because it didn’t take long at all for me to love the two main characters and become invested in seeing them succeed against all the dangers that were thrown their way.  They were both flawed, but they also remained likable.

In spite of her practice of bad magic by forcing a man to love her, Emily is a sympathetic character.  It’s not a spell she casts lightly, and it’s quite clear that she feels that it is a last resort.  In addition to the fact that her conscience bothers her, she doesn’t even love Dag nor does she particularly want to marry him – but she does worry about what will happen to her father if their financial situation does not improve quickly.  Throughout the course of the novel, it’s shown that this is in keeping with Emily’s character.  She’s a woman of action and not the type to sit back if she has a method at her disposal she can use, no matter how risky or unladylike it may be.  Yet she doesn’t seem foolhardy, just like someone who is doing the best she can – and she’s also capable of admitting she was wrong and trying to set things right, as she does when she realizes just how miserable she’s made poor Dag.

Emily also has her prejudices, which becomes clear when she and Stanton encounter some Native Americans.  Her thoughts about these people are not very kind, nor are some of the comments she makes to Stanton such as when their Holy Woman is scrutinizing her:

 

“Sizing me up for the cook pot, no doubt,” Emily muttered. [pp. 84]

While her attitude is harsh, I also got the impression at the time that it was largely due to naivete and Emily’s opinion could very well change.  This was the first time she’d really been away from Lost Pine, so she’s been sheltered her whole life and probably only knows what she’s read in some of the magazines or heard from some of the townspeople.  By the end, she seems more accepting, and it would be more difficult to like her if she didn’t considering the role the Native American Holy Woman plays.

On the subject of prejudice, Emily also holds quite a bit of disdain for Stanton and has ever since the first time she saw him in their town.  Her view of him has never changed, as she sees him as far too lofty and prideful for his own good:

 

Emily let out a sigh and prepared to be annoyed. For when it came to being annoying, Dreadnought Stanton never disappointed.

He was a Warlock, and the manner in which he typically delivered this left the distinct impression that the word must be spelled in strictly capital letters. He was a Warlock, a member of a lofty brotherhood whose kind ran factories, advised ancient monarchs, and were appointed to cabinet posts in Washington, D.C.;  doers of great deeds who turned the tides of war and vanquished monsters; superior men who shored up the underpinnings of reality and other extremely splendid and eye-opening things.

Dreadnought Stanton was a Warlock, and during his tenure in Lost Pine, he never seemed to tire of reminding people of that fact. [pp. 19]

It’s also quite clear that Emily is not entirely unjustified in her annoyance at his presence as he does indeed seem to be rather pompous, telling her he insists on accompanying her to check out the potential zombie issue because “I can’t let a female with such dangerously antique notions of magic–not to mention such a questionable code of ethics–face a pack of zombie miners alone” (pp. 29).  Yet he also proves to be brave and reliable, and Emily eventually comes to respect him as she gets to know him better even if he does remain a sort of walking encyclopedia magica.

As much as I loved the characters and their conversations, there’s far more to recommend than just the two main protagonists.  The world is also very well-drawn and through the course of Emily and Stanton’s travels a lot is learned about it and different views on magic.  There are three main schools of magic: credomancy, animancy, and sangrimancy.  Credomancy involves influence through manipulating beliefs, animancy is earth magic/herbalism, and sangrimancy is a dark, blood magic.  There’s a wide variety of views on practicing magic, and some would persecute anyone who does.  It also appears there is much more to magic, depending on which area of the world one is from, but there are only some brief glimpses of this.

There’s also lots of adventure, betrayals and hardships along the way.  I particularly enjoyed that it was actually a perilous journey and Hobson didn’t end it with everyone coming away unscathed (although I did also think there was less horror at what happened than I would have expected, but I guess there were some bigger preoccupations that could have put this in perspective).

The conclusion wrapped up the main part of this novel nicely, but it also leaves one with a lot of questions for the next novel since it hints that something much bigger is happening.  A little more is revealed in this final section about what went on behind the scenes, but it also leaves open more possibilities and sets up a sequel.

Simply put, I absolutely loved The Native Star and cannot wait to read the The Hidden Goddess.  It had me glued to the pages, desperately wanting to know what happened next, and completely invested in the two main characters and their mission.  At the same time, it introduced a fascinating alternate world in the 1800’s and left some tantalizing pieces about both the bigger picture and the two main characters’ pasts.  It’s very different from what I’d expect to see nominated for the Nebula, but it was both enchanting and memorable enough that it’s easy to see why it was nominated.

My Rating: 9/10 (I dithered a bit between an 8 and a 9, but in the end, this one has really stuck with me so I’m going with a 9.)

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

This week was another huge week for books – I received 3 review copies, got 5 books as gifts from a friend, accepted one e-book review copy, and downloaded a free e-book offered to me by the author on Twitter.  And now that I just finished The Native Star by M. K. Hobson for the Nebula Readathon I have no idea what to read next (especially since I really just want the sequel to The Native Star right now – I loved it!).

The ReturningThe Returning by Christine Hinwood

The Returning, a young adult novel set in a medieval fantasy world, will be released in hardcover and as an e-book in the US on April 14.  The moment I saw this book it grabbed my attention due to the cover quote by one of my favorite young adult authors, Megan Whalen Turner:

 

A beautiful examination of the complexities of love and loyalty in the aftermath of war.

Yes, I definitely think I need to read this one. (Updated to add: This book was previously released in Australia with the title Bloodflower.  This is the first time this book has been released in the US.  Thanks to Orannia for the heads up that it had been previously released under a different title depending on which country you are in.)

An intense story of love, loss and turmoil in the aftermath of war. A first novel by a uniquely talented author.

Vivid, compassionate and totally absorbing, Bloodflower follows the fortunes of young Cam Attling and all those whose fates entwine with his.

Cam has a hunger, an always-hunger; it drives him from home, to war, from north to south. When he returns from war alone – all his fellow soldiers slain – suspicion swirls around him. He’s damaged in body and soul, yet he rides a fine horse and speaks well of his foes. What has he witnessed? Where does his true allegiance lie? How will life unfold for his little sister, his closest friend, his betrothed, his community, and even the enemy Lord who maimed him?

With extraordinary insight and literary skill, Hinwood weaves their stories to create a tale of romance, adventure and everyday life in croft and manor house and castle. Her style is unique. Her characters will hijack your heart.

Wereworld: Rise of the WolfWereworld: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling

This young adult novel is already available in the UK, and it will be released in the US on September 20 (in hardcover).  There are plans for two more sequels.  I’m not sure this is my type of book, but it does seem to be getting quite a few good reviews so perhaps it would be worth trying at some point.

‘You’re the last of the werewolves son. Don’t fight it…Conquer it’. When the air is clear, sixteen year-old Drew Ferran can pick up the scent of a predator. When the moon breaks through the clouds, a terrifying fever grips him. And when a vicious beast invades his home, his gums begin to tear, his fingers become claws, and Drew transforms …Forced to flee the family he loves, Drew seeks refuge in the most godforsaken parts of Lyssia. But when he is captured by Lord Bergan’s men, Drew must prove he is not the enemy. Can Drew battle the werecreatures determined to destroy him – and master the animal within?

Wereworld: Rise of the WolfWaking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong

The eleventh novel in the Otherworld series (formerly known as Women of the Otherworld) will be released in paperback on April 5.  It is already available in hardcover and an e-book, and an excerpt containing the first three chapters is available here.

Question for those who have read the series: It sounds as though the books feature some different characters and this particular book has a new narrator from the previous volumes.  Does it work as a stand alone?  Or is it really necessary to read the first ten (!) books to read this one?  Since Kelley Armstrong is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and I’ve heard good things about this series, I am curious about it but I’m also not sure if it’s a good idea to start here.

The orphaned daughter of a sorcerer and a half-demon, Savannah is a terrifyingly powerful young witch who has never been able to resist the chance to throw her magical weight around. But at 21 she knows she needs to grow up and prove to her guardians, Paige and Lucas, that she can be a responsible member of their supernatural detective agency. So she jumps at the chance to fly solo, investigating the mysterious deaths of three young women in a nearby factory town as a favour to one of the agency’s associates. At first glance, the murders look garden-variety human, but on closer inspection signs point to otherworldly stakes.

Soon Savannah is in over her head. She’s run off the road and nearly killed, haunted by a mystery stalker, and freaked out when the brother of one of the dead women is murdered when he tries to investigate the crime. To complicate things, something weird is happening to her powers. Pitted against shamans, demons, a voodoo-inflected cult and garden-variety goons, Savannah has to fight to ensure her first case isn’t her last. And she also has to ask for help, perhaps the hardest lesson she’s ever had to learn.

Luck in the ShadowsLuck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling

This is the first book in the Nightrunner series.  It’s followed by Stalking Darkness, Traitor’s Moon, Shadows Return, and The White RoadGlimpses, a collection of short stories related to the series, was also recently released.

For the past couple of years, one of my friends and I have been exchanging some of our favorite books read during the previous year.  This year I have promised to read the first book in the Nightrunner series plus its sequel, which I’ve been told is also a much better book than the first novel in the series (not just by her since reviews I’ve read of the first two books have said the same thing).

When young Alec of Kerry is taken prisoner for a crime he didn’t commit, he is certain that his life is at an end. But one thing he never expected was his cellmate. Spy, rogue, thief, and noble, Seregil of Rhiminee is many things–none of them predictable. And when he offers to take on Alec as his apprentice, things may never be the same for either of them. Soon Alec is traveling roads he never knew existed, toward a war he never suspected was brewing. Before long he and Seregil are embroiled in a sinister plot that runs deeper than either can imagine, and that may cost them far more than their lives if they fail. But fortune is as unpredictable as Alec’s new mentor, and this time there just might be…Luck in the Shadows.

Stalking DarknessStalking Darkness by Lynn Flewelling

This is of course the second book in the Nightrunner series and the one that is supposed to be amazing. I’m really looking forward to starting this series for several reasons:

1. I like reading books about thieves.
2. This is supposed to be a great series and I have actually wanted to read it for awhile.
3. Lynn Flewelling is a Maine native like myself (although she doesn’t live here anymore).
4. Recently, I decided I wanted to try to read more high fantasy written by women this year (which I used to, but I’ve branched out into reading a lot of different types of fantasy so I don’t read quite as much of it as I once did).

With the Leran threat laid to rest, Alec and Seregil are now able to turn their attention to the ancient evil which threatens their land. The Plenimarans, at war with Skalans, have decided to defeat their ancient enemy by raising up the Dead God, Seriamaius. The early attempts at this reincarnation—masterminded by the sinister Duke Mardus and his sorcerous minion Vargul Ashnazai—once left Seregil in a sorcerous coma. Now, an ancient prophecy points to his continuing role in the quest to stop Mardus in his dread purpose.

Seregil’s friend and Mentor, the wizard Nysander, has long been the guardian of a deadly secret. In a secret, silver-lined room hidden well beneath the Oreska, he has served for most of his 300 years as the keeper of a nondescript clay cup. But this cup, combined with a crystal crown and some wooden disks, forms the Helm of Seriamaius, and any mortal donning the reconstructed Helm will become the incarnation of the god on earth.

Nysander holds the cup and Mardus the wooden disks—one of which was responsible for Seregil’s coma—but the crown must still be located. Threatened under pain of death by Nysander to keep his quest a secret even from his loyal companion, Alec, Seregil is dispatched to find the last missing piece of the Helm so that he and Nysander can destroy it. But this is only the beginning of one of his deadliest journeys ever, for the prophecy also holds that four will come together in a time of darkness, and gradually all that Seregil values is placed at risk as he, Alec, Nysander and Micum are drawn into a deadly web of terror and intrigue.

Lord of Snow and ShadowsLord of Snow and Shadows by Sarah Ash

This is the first book in the Tears of Artamon trilogy, which is one of the other series my friend read last year that made it to her favorites list.  It sounds very interesting, a sort of Russian inspired fantasy series.  This article on Suvudu talks more about it, and here is an excerpt from it.

All Gavril Andar has ever known of life is the sunny clime of his southern home, his beautiful mother, and his love of painting. Until his peace is shattered – and his destiny decreed – by the arrival of a group of fierce clan warriors from the north. The father he has never known is dead. The man who ruled the wintry kingdom of Ahkendir, a man in whose veins ran the burning blood of the Drakhoul, has been murdered by his enemies.

Blood. The liquid that will seal Gavril’s fate. For becoming Drakhaon means not only ascending to the throne of Azhkendir, but also changing – changing, in subtle ways at first, into a being of erxtraordinary power and might. Becoming a dragon-warrior. One that must be replenished with the blood of innocents in order to survive.

Kidnapped by the warriors, Gavril is incarcerated in Kastel Drakhaon, with no means of escape from the isolated, ice-bound kingdom. Expected to avenge his father’s death, and carefully watched by neighbouring rulers waiting for their chance to move against him, the untested Gavril must fight to retain his human heart and soul in the face of impending war – and the dark instincts that threaten to overpower him…

Prisoner of the Iron TowerPrisoner of the Iron Tower by Sarah Ash

This is the second book in the Tears of Artamon trilogy.

A weaver of tales, a caster of spells, and a writer of rare imagination, Sarah Ash lends her unique vision to epic fantasy. In this captivating continuation to her story, the author of Lord of Snow and Shadows revisits a realm filled with spirits and singers, daemons and kings.

Gavril Nagarian has finally cast out the dragon-daemon from deep within himself. The Drakhaoul is gone—and with it all of Gavril’s fearsome powers. Though no longer besieged by the Drakhaoul’s unnatural lusts and desires, Gavril has betrayed his birthright and his people. He has put the ice-bound princedom of Azhkendir at risk and lost.

Emerging from his battle with the Lord Drakhaon scarred but victorious, Eugene of Tielen exacts a terrible price. He arrests the renegade warlord Gavril Nagarian for crimes against the Rossiyan Empire and sentences him to life in an insane asylum—for the absence of the Drakhaoul is slowly driving Gavril mad. But Eugene has another motive as well. He longs to possess the Drakhaoul—at any cost to his kingdom and his humanity. With Gavril locked inside the Iron Tower, three women keep his memory alive. His mother returns to the warmer climes of her homeland, where she foments the seeds of rebellion. A young scullery maid whose heart is broken by Gavril’s arrest sends her spirit out to the Ways Beyond. And even the emperor’s new wife is haunted by her remembrances of the handsome young painter who once captured her soul.

The five princedoms of a shattered empire are reunited. The last of Artamon’s ruby tears adorns Eugene’s crown. But peace is as fragile as a rebel’s whisper—and a captive’s wish to be free.

Glowing with the powers of light and darkness, Prisoner of the Iron Tower will astonish and enthrall you, as courtly intrigue collides with the fantastic—and good and evil become as nebulous as the outlines of a dream.

Prisoner of the Iron TowerChildren of the Serpent Gate by Sarah Ash

This is the third book in the Tears of Artamon trilogy.  I really hope I like them since my friend sent me the whole series!

In this third novel in her acclaimed Tears of Artamon saga, Sarah Ash once again transports readers to a realm where sorcery collides with political intrigue…and where one man haunted by a dark legacy is locked in a fierce struggle between the forces of good and evil battling for supremacy within him….

Gavril Nagarian is believed dead–perished in the heat of battle. But the Lord Drakhaon of Azhkendir lives on. Now he is entrusted with a sacred mission: to rescue the aged Magus, who has been kidnapped and in whose possession are the five priceless rubies that compose the fabled Tears of Artamon. Ancient law decrees that whoever possesses the coveted stones has the power to impose his rule over the five princedoms in the Empire of New Rossiya.

But the task exacts a cost. The Drakhaoul that destroyed his forebears has penetrated Gavril’s psyche and is gaining power over his soul. With the dark forces inside him seeking immortality, Gavril must feed on the blood of innocents–or die.

Toppled by the loss of the Tears of Artamon, Emperor Eugene of Tielen is tormented by his own daemon. Now he must defend his lands against King Enguerrand of Francia, who claims ownership of the Tears. But both men share a common goal: to destroy Gavril Nagarian and the Drakhaoul that lives within him once and for all.

Ingenious and unforgettable, Children of the Serpent Gate delivers a thrilling conclusion to the epic trials of a man of honor in a world run amok–a calamity that can be laid to rest only by an Emperor’s Tears.

Ten Ruby TrickTen Ruby Trick by Julia Knight

This is only available as an e-book.  I don’t read a lot of e-books at the moment, but how could I resist a fantasy pirate adventure with some romance when the author offered a copy for review?  It looks like a lot of fun.

Privateer Van Gast thrills in capturing treasure; delights in pulling off elaborate scams; and has an outrageous reputation with the ladies. But there is only one woman for him: fellow privateer Josie—seductive, brave and unpredictable. He’s hoping to make their relationship permanent, until he raids the wrong ship. Now slavers are stalking him, his crew is verging on mutiny and Josie has disappeared.

When she reappears with a new mark wanting Van Gast’s help running the ten ruby trick con, he senses trouble. It seems like Josie has joined up with mage-bound slavers to turn him over to their Master. Van Gast is about to take the biggest risk of all—and find out the true meaning of trust and betrayal.

In Her Name: EmpireIn Her Name: Empire by Michael R. Hicks

This is the first book in a trilogy, and is available in as an omnibus also containing Confederation and The Final Battle.  All the books are available in paper format or as e-books.  I don’t normally read self-published books, but I have heard some very good things about this one so when I was offered the opportunity to download the first book for free I took it.  Some sample chapters are available online.

In the first book of an epic futuristic fantasy trilogy, this is the coming-of-age story of Reza Gard, a young boy of the Human Confederation who is swept up in the century-long war with the alien Kreelan Empire. Nightmarish female warriors with blue skin, fangs, and razor sharp talons, the Kreelans have technology that is millennia beyond that of the Confederation, yet they seek out close combat with sword and claw, fighting and dying to honor their god-like Empress. Captured and enslaved, Reza must live like his enemies in a grand experiment to see if humans have souls, and if one may be the key to unlocking an ages old curse upon the Kreelan race. Enduring the brutal conditions of Kreelan life, Reza and a young warrior named Esah-Zhurah find themselves bound together by fate and a prophecy foretold millennia before they were born.